ITN struggling to find a new political editor

ITN is having difficulty in finding a high-calibre political editor to take over from Michael Brunson who retires early next year, insiders at the news organisation confirm.

ITN is having difficulty in finding a high-calibre political editor to take over from Michael Brunson who retires early next year, insiders at the news organisation confirm.

"Michael used to be the face of political news on News at Ten," said a colleague, "but now the bulletin has gone, his job has lost an awful lot of status especially among politicians."

Mr Brunson's job used to be regarded, along with the political editor of the BBC, as one of the most important journalistic roles at Westminster but is now seen as a poor second to the BBC position.

Mr Brunson also has to work later to deliver political news to the 11pm bulletin, which receives a fraction of the viewers who tuned in at 10pm.

When News at Ten was still showing, the clear front-runner to succeed Mr Brunson was Adam Boulton, the energetic political editor of Sky News. But friends of Mr Boulton are saying that he "is not keen" to take on the ITN job.

"There is a real question over whether the ITN job is any longer a step up for Adam," says one friend. "There is a sense that ITV is no longer giving news a central place in the schedule, and there seems to be an absolute conviction at ITV that it will not bring back News at Ten."

ITN is also seen as an unhappy place to work, as staff are being asked to work flexible shifts and anti-social hours in return for a 1.2 per cent pay rise. Last week they voted to take industrial action over the new working practices.

"Years ago, ITN journalists were some of the best paid, and there was a sense that they had a mandate to get the important stories, never mind the cost. Those days are gone," an insider said.

Another candidate for Mr Brunson's job is ITN's Washington correspondent, James Mates but like Mr Boulton, he is said to be unenthusiastic about taking the post.

The job is also seen as a step down for John Sergeant, the chief political correspondent at the BBC - leaving ITN insiders speculating that a lower-ranked correspondent from the BBC may be in the frame - such as Jon Sopel, the Paris correspondent, or John Kampfner, a political correspondent.

Mr Sopel is probably the best regarded outside choice, according to BBC colleagues as he is experienced on television and knowledgeable about Blairite politics, having written a well-received biography of the Prime Minister.

ITN insiders are hard pressed to think of likely women candidates.

Elinor Goodman, political editor of Channel 4, is said to be quite happy where she is - and in any case, the search is on for "the next generation" of highflyers in political journalism.

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